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Long before the refrigerator was invented, the Japanese used pickling to preserve food. Many traditional types of pickles can be kept almost indefinitely. But more than that, they perfected the art so greatly, pickles or Tsukemono had become a core food in Japanese diet for generations, savoured as side dishes, condiments, palate cleansers, garnishes, relishes and even digestives.
Tsukemono is meant to create balance and harmony of colours, flavours and aesthetics in Japanese food culture. You’ve probably tasted them without realizing it – those vibrant tangy bits and pieces that ease the tastes of your favourite Japanese dishes.
There are many variants of Tsukemono, some added with seaweed and seafood for extra flavour. Pickling methods range from brining to cultured moulds and fermentation, transforming the original product into colourful, fragrant foods, best savoured in small bites on their own.
Here are some of the most common types.